Andy Gemao, A Man Amongst Boys In His Philippine Homecoming

Andy Gemao, A Man Amongst Boys In His Philippine Homecoming

High school phenom Andy Gemao continues to show his potential as he returns to the Philippines for the NBTC 2024 National Finals.

Heading into the NBTC 2024 tournament, a major storyline was Andy Gemao’s return to the Philippines. To recall, Gemao made headlines after a Mythical Five and Finals MVP season with the Letran Squires in 2023 before flying to the US to try out for the Veritas Prep academy. 

For the NBTC, Gemao is part of the Fil-Am Nation Select Team. So far, he has been one of its key cogs, averaging 15.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.5 assists in four games at the National Finals. 

It goes without question that his performances are a result of his overseas exposure, which now includes a Basketball Without Borders invite during All-Star Weekend 2024 in Indianapolis. 

Siguro mas madali na lang. ‘Di ko naman sinasabi na easy na lang, pero siguro mas madali na lang. Lalo na ‘yung past experiences ko ngayon sa top level na talaga nakalaban ko,”  Gemao told The GAME after Fil-Am Nation Select’s 95-63 drubbing over One Media TV48 Naga in the Fantastic 8. 

Andy Gemao takes flight during the NBTC 2024's Fantastic 8
Fil-Am Nation Select’s Andy Gemao takes flight during the NBTC 2024’s Fantastic 8. (NBTC)

Gemao described US basketball as “extremely different” from its Philippine counterpart. For instance, he noted teams are more “structured”, and would only take the most efficient shots given the different breed of American defenders. 

Gemao continued that physicality is “cleaner” in the US. While he acknowledged this as Filipino teams’ strength in the NBTC, he noted their more questionable play and lenient officiating as compared to the States. 

‘Yung highlight plays dito, normal lang na plays doon. Kailangan mo ng extra criticism, kailangan ng, ‘yun nga, sa utak, kailangan mas matalas ka and mabilis ka mag-react,” the former Letran juniors star continued. 

Higher level needed

Save for one game, Andy Gemao and company have been dominant in the NBTC National Finals. Aside from a scare against SRIC-Iloilo, their wins have included a 54-point blowout over PCU-Dasmariñas, an 17-point beating over reigning champions NU-Nazareth Manila, and their win over One Media TV48 Naga.

Given this, Gemao admits wanting exposure against local pro teams. The phenom simply nodded when asked if he wanted to play against a PBA team. 

“Mas okay kasi kung para sakin, maka-experience ako ng pro teams na ‘yung kailangan talaga…hindi ko na nire-reserve ‘yung sarili ko. Yung sa highest level,” Gemao said. 

“Iba kasi pag naglalaro ka sa mga ganito [higher level] na leagues. Na nasanay ka na malakas ‘yung mga kalaban…parang minsan nga ‘yung mga malalakas pag naglalaro sa mga mahihinang team nagagalaw ‘yung aura nila. So ‘yun.” 

In line with these, Gemao refused to rate his performance in the NBTC. “Kasi hindi ito ‘yung type ng games na lalabas ‘yung laro mo. Lalabas ‘yung laro mo kung malalakas talaga ‘yung kalaban,” he admitted. 

The balikbayan experience summed up

However, Gemao still has some positives to take away from his homecoming. Personally, he said coming home has been a “stress reliever”, as his life in the US only revolves around “studies and basketball”. 

Dito nakakarelax ako, nagpunta ako sa hometown ko, nakalaro ako dun kasama ‘yung mga kababata ko. So ‘yun, masaya ako,” Gemao said, adding he also stayed in his parents’ home in Siargao as a vacation. 

Basketball-wise, Gemao acknowledged the NBTC allowed him to showcase his maturity, noting: “Mas madali ko nababasa, hindi na ako…batang mag isip. Na iniisip ko lang ‘yung sarili ko. ‘Yun nga, alam ko na ‘yung diskarte sa laro, paano mag-set ng tone, paano mag-control ng pace.” 

As of this writing, Andy Gemao and the rest of Fil-Am Nation Select will take on Quezon Province’s Batang Tiaong in the NBTC’s Fearless Four. If all goes well, he and the team will once again vie for the national championship. 

And if his NBTC run will contribute to his already rapid growth, it will come from getting that championship trophy. 

Andy Gemao and teammate Terrence Hill
Fil-Am Nation Select’s Andy Gemao (left) and Terrence Hill. (NBTC)

“Last year kasi, Fil-Am Nation, wala pa silang [championship] eh. ‘Yun na lang siguro ‘yung goal ko sa ngayon, ‘yun nga onti-ontiin namin ipanalo ‘tong mga last games,” he said, referring to Fil-Am Nation Select’s 75-64 heartbreak over NU-Nazareth School last year.

Fortunately, Fil-Am Nation Select is peaking at just the right time. When they began their run, Gemao admitted the team was “very one-sided”, but eventually proceeded to see their teammates’ individual strengths. 

Gradually, he added they started to understand coach Chris Gavina’s system.

Masarap maglaro para kay coach Chris kasi sobrang free flowing…dun siya nagbebase sa strengths ng mga bata. Di ‘yung hinihila nya kami pababa…tinutulak niya kami sa full potential in a way na nasa loob pa rin kami, hindi kami loner,” Gemao shared. 

Banner Image from NBTC

For Tab Baldwin, NBTC 2024 Shows The Upside Of Filipino High School Hoops

Chris Gavina Excited for ‘Extremely Bright Future for Philippine Basketball’

Road to Redemption: Jared Bahay Chases Elusive Title in NBTC 2024